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Is your Ex Playing Hardball with the Kids in Divorce?


In your mind, your marriage is over and done with.  Your feelings toward your spouse have long since waned, and, if anything, are on the negative end of the spectrum. So what’s holding you up from getting a local attorney and following through with a divorce?  If you’re worried about the possibility that your spouse will use the kids as a bludgeon during divorce proceedings and beyond, you may have a serious issue to prepare for.

Parental Alienation 

Parental alienation, according to Dr. Richard Gardner, occurs when parents strive to create a wall between another parent and their children.  There are plenty of ways parents do this, some subtle, others quite overt.  Examples of these potentially harmful behaviors include:

  • Using the kids to relay messages instead of communicating directly with your former spouse;
  • Asking children about your ex’s love life, dating habits, or new spouse;
  • Letting the kids hear your negative judgments about your ex;
  • Deliberately making decisions that will inconvenience your ex;
  • Limiting communication and/or visitation for the non-custodial parent;
  • Attempting to win children’s affection by being permissive, purchasing things the other parent won’t, and otherwise trying to be the “fun parent”;
  • Acting wounded or withdrawn when kids have a good time with the other parent.

What Motivates this Type of Behavior 

Oftentimes parents who put kids in the middle of an ugly divorce are suffering from serious mental or emotional issues.  Examples of troubling emotional issues might be:

  • Feelings of narcissism;
  • Expressions reflecting self-absorption;
  • Difficulty accepting responsibility for problems in family life;
  • A denial of the impact such behaviors have on innocent children;
  • Extreme feelings of anger and resentment directed at the ex;
  • Serious emotional fragility.

The Best Interests of the Kids 

Courts strive to achieve outcomes that benefit children.  Experts uniformly recognize that children benefit from having loving parents involved in their lives.  When one parent’s goal is to sabotage an otherwise healthy relationship, the children often pay a hefty price. As kids struggle to please two competing adults, they often find themselves failing on one front or the other.  This could lead to diminished self-esteem, a sense of unworthiness, and downright depression. In the long-term, it can even result in addictive behavior. Without question, the trauma of being in the middle of parents’ negative behavior patterns has well-documented outcomes, none of which are desirable.

Dealing with Parental Alienation 

What can you do to protect yourself and your kids from this divisive situation?  For starters, consider family counseling.  If your soon-to-be ex is unwilling to participate, you and your kids could still benefit.  Beyond that, reinforce your love and acceptance for your kids, and avoid getting dragged into similar behaviors yourself.  Document issues of concern, and, if necessary, follow through with the courts if you believe your children are in real danger emotionally or otherwise.

Contact Us Today for Help 

At the Law Office of Hasson D. Barnes, we use our knowledge and experience to create the best possible outcomes for our clients.  If divorce is in your future, contact our Baltimore family lawyers for a confidential consultation today.




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